4 min read ACT Info and Tips

# What’s a Good ACT Score in 2021?

When you’re applying to college, you want to know how you compare to other applicants at your dream schools. One factor colleges consider is your standardized test scores. Although most colleges have gone test-optional for this academic year, if you’ve had a chance to take the ACT, you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s a good ACT score?”

This answer depends on your definition of “good,” of course. We’ve broken down the different factors to consider, so you can decide for yourself.

## What Is the Average ACT Score in 2021?

According to the National Norms for ACT Test Scores Reported During the 2020-2021 Reporting Year, ACT composite scores correlate to the following percentiles (with the 99th percentile indicating that you performed better than 99 percent of test-takers).

 Composite Score Percentile 36 100 35 99 34 99 33 98 32 96 31 95 30 93 29 90 28 88 27 85 26 82 25 78 24 74 23 70 22 64 21 59 20 53 19 47 18 41 17 35 16 28 15 22 14 16 13 10 12 5 11 2 10 1 9 1 8 1 7 1 6 1 5 1 4 1 3 1 2 1 1 1 Mean 20.7

The subsection averages and correlated percentiles are as follows:

 Score English Math Reading Science 36 100 100 100 100 35 99 99 98 99 34 96 99 96 98 33 94 98 94 97 32 92 97 91 96 31 91 96 89 95 30 89 94 86 93 29 88 93 84 92 28 86 91 82 90 27 84 88 80 88 26 82 84 77 85 25 79 79 74 82 24 75 74 71 77 23 71 70 66 71 22 65 65 61 64 21 60 61 55 58 20 55 58 50 51 19 49 54 44 45 18 45 49 39 39 17 41 42 34 32 16 37 33 29 26 15 32 21 24 19 14 25 11 19 14 13 19 4 14 4 12 15 1 10 7 11 11 1 5 4 10 7 1 3 3 9 3 1 1 1 8 2 1 1 1 7 1 1 1 1 6 1 1 1 1 5 1 1 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Mean 20.1 20.4 21.2 20.6

## Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

## ACT College Readiness Benchmarks 2021

The ACT College Readiness Benchmarks indicate a student’s “reasonable chance of success” in a credit-bearing, first-year college course at a typical institution. The ACT offers Benchmarks in six core subject areas linked to performance on corresponding ACT test scores. This year’s Benchmarks are:

 ACT Test Score College Courses Benchmark English English Composition I 18 Mathematics College Algebra 22 Reading American History, Other History, Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Economics 22 Science Biology 23 STEM Calculus, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Engineering 26 ELA English Composition I, American History, Other History, Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Economics 20

Basically, if you meet these benchmarks, you have a good chance of succeeding in a college class. Keep in mind, however, that these scores may not be enough to get you into your dream schools.

## How to Set Your Target ACT Score

Different students have different strengths and abilities. Your target ACT score should depend on several factors, such as:

To determine where you’re starting from, take a practice test, simulating standard testing conditions, adhering to time constraints and the tools you’ll be able to have at your disposal during the real ACT. Score it and compare it to the corresponding percentiles. This will help you understand the score you might get without studying or preparation.

If your score is low, don’t panic. Remember that this is without any preparation. You’ll be able to improve it by practicing; this is just your baseline. You’ll find tips on improving your score below.

### What Colleges Do You Want to Attend?

Your target colleges also dictate your target score. Look at the chart below to find out the middle 50% ACT range at top universities. You should aim to be in the higher end of this range for your school — that is, above the 50th percentile of previously accepted students. For example, if the middle 50% range at a given school is 33-35, your composite score should be 34 or higher.

Bear in mind that changes in testing policies will affect your target score, such as the fact that many schools are test-optional due to COVID-19. Many schools also superscore, meaning that they’ll take your highest section scores from different test sittings to form a new composite score.

## What Is the Average ACT at Top Schools?

### Top 20 National Universities

 University Name US News Ranking Middle 50% ACT Range Princeton University 1 33-35 Harvard University 2 33-35 Columbia University 3 33-35 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4 35-36 Yale University 4 33-35 Stanford University 6 32-35 University of Chicago 6 33-35 University of Pennsylvania 8 33-35 California Institute of Technology 9 35-36 Johns Hopkins University 9 33-35 Northwestern University 9 33-35 Duke University 12 33-35 Dartmouth College 13 32-35 Brown University 14 32-35 Vanderbilt University 14 33-35 Rice University 16 33-35 Washington University in St. Louis 16 33-35 Cornell University 18 32-35 University of Notre Dame 19 33-35 University of California–Los Angeles 20 31-35

### Top 20 Liberal Arts Colleges

 College Name US News Ranking Middle 50% ACT Range Williams College 1 32-35 Amherst College 2 32-34 Swarthmore College 3 31-34 Pomona College 4 32-35 Wellesley College 4 31-34 Bowdoin College 6 32-34 Claremont McKenna College 6 31-34 United States Naval Academy 6 26-32 Carleton College 9 30-34 Hamilton College 9 31-34 Middlebury College 9 31-34 Washington and Lee University 9 31-34 Grinnell College 13 31-34 Vassar College 13 31-34 Colby College 15 32-35 Davidson College 15 30-34 Haverford College 15 32-34 Smith College 15 28-31 United States Military Academy 15 25-30 Colgate University 20 31-34 Wesleyan University 20 31-34

## What to Do if Your Score Is Too Low

### 1. Study, study, study.

Focus on your weakest areas, based on your baseline practice test, to formulate your study plan. Make sure you set aside enough time to fit in practice sessions every day. We have plenty of resources to help you with your studying, too.

### 2. Take the test again.

Many college superscore, meaning that they will factor in only your highest section scores from different test sittings to form a new composite. Even if your schools don’t superscore, repeat testers generally do better and have an average composite score that’s 2.9 points higher than single-test takers. Still, you shouldn’t take the test more than 2-3 times. Your score is unlikely to improve after you take it a handful of times.

If you’re not sure which schools superscore, review this list of colleges. Please also double-check with your school website, as policies are constantly changing.

### 3. Consider applying test-optional.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented many students from being able to take the ACT and SAT, many colleges have gone test-optional for at least this academic year. If you receive disappointing scores, then you do have the option of omitting them from your application.

At CollegeVine, we suggest submitting your ACT score if it falls within three points of the 25th percentile at your target school. (Overall test scores and superscores are likely to be lower during this admissions cycle because most students were unable to take the test more than once.) Otherwise, don’t send them, and focus on improving other aspects of your application, like essays.

Note that this applies to this admissions cycle only. Colleges may change their policies or otherwise change course depending on their experience with this admissions cycle and the pandemic.

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